idsgn (a design blog)

Bruce Mau: Ending the interruption

Comments: +

September 25 2009

'Massive Change' (from a 2005 exhibit) is what Bruce Mau says the advertising industry needs to be successful in the future (Photo: 416style, Flickr)

As Advertising Week 2009 wraps up in New York, we’re presenting the last of our coverage: A lecture presented by the legendary designer, Bruce Mau

Bruce Mau is a Canadian designer who is known as a ‘re-thinker’ and ‘design futurist.’ He’s an author, designer and thinker who remains committed to moving our industry forward.

Most designers are familiar with S,M,L,XL, Mau’s hefty design volume created with Rem Koolhaas. As author of the design manifesto, Massive Change, Mau sought to push the definition of design forward. The concept that designers really do ‘make’ the world around us and continue to produce images, concepts and physical space for everyone, led to his proclamation that design will be the driving force for global social evolution.


Selected work: S,M,L,XL book (Photo: Hans Werlemann, AIGA Archives), Museum of Modern Art signage (2004), Walrus Magazine cover (2007), Too Perfect multimedia exhibition (2004), Guatemala branding (2004), Massive Change exhibit (2006, Photo: grifray, Flickr)

Changing the industry

His presentation focused on the change the advertising industry needs to make in order to be successful in the near future. This message was essentially to end the interruption that is at the core of all ads. A perfect example of this interruption is the 30 section television commercial. Advertisers have warned of the demise of the 30 second spot for years, yet it still remains a benchmark for most of the industry.

Even though we say that our agencies are media agnostic, the reality is that there is a pyramid of status and focus around the 30 second spot.

So how do we move beyond it?

Mau’s answer is to find purpose in the product and contribute to the ‘love object,’ rather than interrupt it.  Demonstrating this point is a documentary in which IBM partnered with National Geographic to contribute to the content (below). IBM’s technology made it possible to pick four strangers at random from Grand Central Terminal in New York and trace their genetic code back to a single family, proving that we are all interconnected.

Rather than ‘interrupting’ with commercials, IBM contributes to National Geographic's Genographic Project documentary.

IBM is not only a sponsor, they’re actually doing the thing that the program is about. So it’s an example where you can actually see that demonstration of the intelligence and capacity in IBM’s thinking, put to an application. There is no ad necessary.

Understandably, not every product has the opportunity to copy this particular case study. The rise of unlimited choice has and will continue to create consumers who will no longer stand or respond to the old advertising tactics. It will ultimately be up to the community of creative’s to find ways to contribute purposeful collaborations between media content and clients, ending the interruption. 

Related: Glimmer, a new book featuring the ideas of Bruce Mau (by author Warren Berger) will be available October 15, 2009.

Filed under: advertising

By Josh Smith